V. The Fear of God and the Hazards of Wealth (Ecclesiastes 5:1–6:12)


V. The Fear of God and the Hazards of Wealth (5:1–6:12)

5:1-3 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. . . . approach in obedience, not as fools do (5:1). Solomon considers the religious side of life. Do not be hasty to speak . . . before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few (5:2) is advice accompanying the note that fools do a lot of talking (5:3). This is a reminder that you’re a fool if you go to church to tell God what to do. He’s up there, and you’re down here. Your brain doesn’t have as much to offer him as you might think it does. So be wise. Be quick to hear from God’s divine perspective and slow to speak your mind.

5:4-7 Fulfill what you vow to God—or don’t vow at all. You want God working for you, not against you (5:4-6). Don’t take your spiritual commitment casually, then. You need God’s supernatural intervention. You need him to pierce the average with the above average. And that doesn’t happen everyday. Therefore, let your words be few, and fear God (5:7). Don’t resist him by failing to take him seriously.

5:8-9 Solomon continues with his analysis of life under the sun. Oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness ought not astonish us. In a fallen world, those in power often do evil things. It was true then, and it’s true today. One corrupt government official protects another, and justice is denied (5:8). But Scripture reminds us elsewhere that the wicked will not always prosper. A day of reckoning is coming (see Ps 73).

5:10-12 Solomon also condemns the love of money: The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver (5:10). It’s not wrong to have money, but it’s wrong to love it—to consider the material more important than the spiritual. The accumulation of wealth usually means the accumulation of stuff, resulting in a lack of sleep (5:11-12). When you hoard, you become a slave to your stuff.

5:13-17 Another tragedy involving money is wealth kept by its owner to his harm (5:13). If it’s lost in a bad venture, there is nothing for his offspring (5:14). This is a reminder that poor decisions about money affect the next generation. Money is a tool to be used, not a god to be worshipped. You can be buried with your possessions if you want, but you’ll take nothing into eternity (5:15-16). And when your priorities are wrong, you will be miserable even with riches (5:17). In fact, I’ve seen many people die miserable although they possessed all the world had to offer.

In the end, the number of suits or dresses in your closet won’t matter. On your deathbed, you won’t be bragging about all of your cars. What’s going to matter is the spiritual legacy you left behind for others and the heavenly investments you forwarded ahead. The spiritual must always trump the material. The fool “stores up treasure for himself” but isn’t “rich toward God” (see Luke 12:21). It’s far better to seek that which lasts forever: the kingdom of God (see Matt 6:33).

5:18-20 Solomon has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of life. He assesses it and declares, “It’s futility.” Yet he also concludes that one should eat, drink, and experience good . . . during the few days of his life God has given him (5:18). This is a gift of God (5:19). So, with this perspective in mind, keep God at the forefront of your life and enjoy his gifts with gratitude. It’s not wrong to want your circumstances to change, but it’s wrong to be ungrateful while waiting for a change. So maintain a joyful heart (5:20) that comes from a spirit of thanksgiving as you benefit from the everyday blessings you enjoy. I might want steak and potatoes tomorrow, but I’m going to thank the Lord that I’m not starving as I settle for pork and beans today.

6:1-5 Solomon observes another tragedy (6:1). A man has riches . . . but God does not allow him to enjoy them (6:2). In other words, he notices that you can have it all but wind up with nothing.

The quality of our lives is better than the quantity of our lives. I’ve seen people who accumulated mountains of stuff who never got around to enjoying it. If you exclude God from your life equation, you may never experience pleasure from your wealth either (see Luke 12:19-20). Even long life and a houseful of children are no guarantee of happiness if one is not satisfied with the good he has (6:3-6). How awful to live your life in such a way that you wish you’d never been born (6:3-5)! The antidote for that tendency is a day-by-day grateful attitude toward God. Under the sun, we’re all marching to the grave. How, then, are you going to live your days? Don’t wait until retirement to live a thankful life. You may not make it to retirement.

6:7-9 It’s possible to labor and strive but never be satisfied (6:7). Whether one yearns for wealth or wisdom or knowing how to conduct oneself, we must not be ruled by desire. In fact, better what the eyes see than wandering desire (6:9). Be content with what God gives you. Kids want toys; adults just want bigger and more expensive toys. But if you chase after physical pleasures, your soul will become anemic. Pursue what your soul needs to be truly satisfied.

6:10-12 We must know our limitations and our priorities. A man is not able to contend with the one stronger than he (6:10). Many words are futile (6:11). And our few days of life are like a shadow (6:12).

God has appointed a day for each of us to die (see Heb 9:27). You might be late for a lot of events in life, but you won’t miss that one! So, under the sun, maximize the days you’ve been given, not contending with God, but looking to him to punctuate life with his presence.